Philippine kidnappers have released Ellicott City native Tracy Rectanus and three others, all unharmed, after eight days of captivity on a remote island.
"We are one happy family," Ms. Rectanus' mother, Hazel Rectanus, said last evening, shortly after receiving word from the State Department that her daughter, a missionary teacher, was free.
Friends had begun calling about noon, telling the family that Cable News Network was reporting that the Muslim separatist Moro National Liberation Front, which had been aiding government negotiations, had arranged for the release of Ms. Rectanus, 34, and the other hostages to authorities in a village about 600 miles south of Manila.
Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Manila confirmed the release. "As far as their physical condition goes, they are fine," a spokesman said. "We will be getting them back to Manila as soon as we can."
Mrs. Rectanus and her husband, Larry, who live on Dogwood Drive in Ellicott City, said they had not yet talked with their daughter.
"She has such strong faith in the Lord, I know she'll be emotionally well and intellectually well" despite her eight-day ordeal, Mrs. Rectanus said.
The daughter had gone to Manila in August to teach speech pathology in a missionary school run by the California-based Summer Institute of Linguistics.
In February, she told her parents she and fellow teacher Carol Allen of Kittanning, Pa., were going to visit a friend on Jolo island while on spring break.
The teachers were kidnapped there along with three other people, one of whom, an infant, was released hours later.
The kidnappers initially demanded $77,000 and four M-14 assault rifles. They later reduced the demands, and a Muslim negotiator said they finally dropped ransom demands altogether, asking only to be reimbursed for the expenses they incurred during the kidnapping.
"I was confident right from the beginning that there would be a successful resolution," Mr. Rectanus said. "Early indications were positive and everything since has unfurled to turn out all right."
"The love, care and concern of people has been beyond belief," Mrs. Rectanus said.
"I couldn't begin to tell you the network of friends -- some of whom we haven't heard from in 25 years -- that has been calling us from all over the United States. People have really been phenomenal. I don't know how many prayer chains she's on."
Mrs. Rectanus said she stayed home the first day she learned of her daughter's capture, but returned the next day to her job as a second-grade teacher's assistant at Waverly Woods Elementary School.
"I felt I would deal with life a little better by going back to work," she said.
Mr. Rectanus said he, too, found that it was better to return to work. "I was better off trying to occupy myself than staying home here, waiting, feeling frustrated and totally helpless."
The couple's younger daughter, Lori, had come up from Alexandria, Va., last week to attend to the household, along with daughter-in-law Paige.
Their son, Lance, his wife, Paige, and their two children, Leah and Adam, were helping Mr. and Mrs. Rectanus celebrate last night.
"I don't think anything will change," Mrs. Rectanus said. "Tracy loves her work and has complete trust and faith in most people. I'm going to embroider her a shirt, however, that says, 'Don't leave Manila again.' "